No Sachin Tendulkar, no Zaheer Khan and no Ajit Agarkar either. Barely four days after they garnered three points in their Ranji Trophy opener against Railways at home, it will be business as usual for Mumbai when they take on two-time defending champions Rajasthan at the KL Saini Stadium in Jaipur from Friday.
While Tendulkar and Khan will stay put in Mumbai for Team India’s three-day camp, Agarkar will sit out of the game with a calf strain. Interestingly, Agarkar is with his boys in Jaipur. “The selectors asked me to be with the team,” Agarkar said, before making it clear that he will let stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma do his thing. “It looks easy when you are sitting in the dressing room. There’s no way I am going to ask Rohit to do this or that. But yes, if he wants my inputs, I’d only be happy to help.”
Sharma will have his task cut out. Apart from handling the pressure of captaining the side in a crunch match, the stylish right-hander would also be hoping that his long-silent bat does some talking. Sharma isn’t part of the squad for the first two Tests against England and it’s time he addressed a few issues.
Mumbai will also be without the prolific Ajinkya Rahane, whose fruitful outings for India ‘A’ (vs England) and Mumbai (vs Railways) have earned him a place in the Test squad.
Wasim Jaffer, who has gone on Haj, will also be unavailable for this game. Sharma will have to turn to good friend and first match hero Abhishek Nayar during a crisis. Nayar, it may be noted, is also a useful bowler. Mumbai, though, will be buoyed by the return of the ultra-aggressive Suryakumar Yadav and the dependable Hiken Shah. Both batsmen had represented Mumbai ‘A’ in the recent warm-up game involving the Englishmen.
“Yes, they played brilliantly in the first match against Railways and would surely be missed but they were there only for one match. For quite some time now, Mumbai are playing without them because they are on national duty,” Sharma said of Tendulkar and Zaheer. “But we have some promising youngsters like Shardul Thakur and Akhil
Herwadkar, so we are capable of putting up a tough fight. We have seen the wicket at Mansarovar and it will be a new one for us because most of us have played only at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium,” he added. Interestingly, both teams trained at the SMS. Dhaval Kulkarni, Kshemal Waingankar, the experienced Ramesh Powar and Iqbal Abdulla will have to find a way to get those 20 wickets.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan who conceded the lead in the opening match against Bengal, would be hoping to upset their weakened opponents. “We are not going to take them lightly because we know the depth of Mumbai cricket,” said skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
Mumbai: Rohit Sharma (C), Ramesh Powar, Iqbal Abdulla, Suryakumar Yadav, Dhaval Kulkarni, Kaustubh Pawar, Abhishek Nayar, Akhil Herwadkar, Hiken Shah, Aditya Tare, Kshemal Waingankar, Shardul Thakur, Ankit Chavan, Shoaib Shaikh
Rajasthan: Hrishikesh Kanitkar (C), Robin Bist, Vaibhav Deshpande, Ankit Lamba, Ashok Menaria, Rashmi Parida, Vineet Saxena, Dishant Yagnik (wk), Gajendra Singh, Aniket Choudhary, Madhur Khatri, Manjeet Singh, Pankaj Singh, Puneet Yadav, Rituraj Singh